Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Masterclass In Session: Online Retail With Carol Fung

The next title in the MPH Masterclass Series is probably the most technical one yet. Mostly because of the technical nature of the subject and the tutor.

In the UK, Carol Fung "fell in love" with the Internet and began dabbling in online retail. Upon her return to Malaysia, she turned a lucrative hobby into a career, eventually teaching others how to set up their own cyberbusinesses.

She has been running her own online retailing business for over a decade. As a certified eBay trainer, she has taught hundreds of people on the art of online retailing through workshops and seminars organised by the likes of the Malaysia Digital Enterprise Exchange (MDEX) and Gorgeous Geeks, an organisation that promotes the use of IT among female entrepreneurs.

The next title in the MPH Masterclass Series will be a bit technical

When approached about the idea of writing a book on online retailing, seems Fung thought that hers would only be among the latest drops into a really huge bucket. But she took another look, and apparently found out that none of the guides out there were for Malaysian audiences.

"Online, there are bits and pieces of advice scattered here and there, but nothing comprehensive that you can refer to if you wish to learn how to start your own online retailing business," she stated. "With books, it’s even worse. All the online retailing books I could find were from the US and the context was all American."

When she first started out, Fung had to learn by trial and error. In this single volume, she shares her accumulated knowledge and experience in this field.

"When I was a newbie, I learned by going online and asking questions to those who were more experienced," she writes in the first chapter. "I am so grateful to those who gave their time willingly to help me get started. I’ve benefitted greatly from their tips and advice, which is why I love teaching others to sell online too.

Carol Fung's online store, crazyaboutstamps.com, appears to be active

"I’ve been an eBay trainer, an MDEX consultant and a Georgeous Geeks mentor. Now, I’m taking it to a whole new level through this book, which has the potential to reach out to an even wider audience, including those who are not yet online. I really feel this is what I was meant to do and I’m so happy to be able to make this a reality."

After talking about how she made tracks in online retail, Fung guides readers, step by step (kinda), on how to set up shop online. Much of the book has the feel of a user manual, with lots of screenshots and pictures to help visualise the steps described.

From sussing out domain names and setting up accounts for eBay, PayPal, Lelong and Mudah.com, to taking pictures of photographs, determine shipping costs and pick shipping methods and setting up a Facebook store, Carol Fung's Guide to Online Retailing is a handy reference for any budding Netpreneur.

While this book is "the sum total" of Fung's 12 years in online retailing, it is not, she writes, "a comprehensive book on online retailing in the sense that I don’t describe every single possible platform available. There are simply too many. Rather, what I’ve done is to share with you the best options that I’ve found.

"I can truly say that what you’re holding in your hands is a guidebook that I wish I had when I was taking my own first baby steps into the world of online retailing so many years ago."

Print versions are going for RM35.90 a copy, while e-book versions will soon be available from MPH Digital.

Carol Fung is scheduled to appear at the Popular Bookfest @ the KL Convention Centre on 05 August, 5pm.

Carol Fung's Guide to Online Retailing
Carol Fung
MPH Group Publishing
213 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-128-7

Buy from MPHOnline.com

Monday, 29 July 2013

News: The Aw-some Tash And Other Stuff

What other news do you need to know other than the inclusion of Tash Aw's Five-Star Billionaire (I'm spelling it with the hyphen) in the most "diverse", "daring" Man Booker longlist yet? Wait, are they still calling it the Man Booker Prize?

Booker longlisted Five-star Billionaire and its author, Tash Aw
(photos not mine)

If you must know, some of the other books in the longlist include We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (who's been shortlisted for the Booker twice), Donal Ryan's début and much-rejected novel The Spinning Heart and the unreleased titles (at the time of naming) Unexploded by Alison MacLeod, Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson, and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Check out the whole line-up here.

...Okay, there were other happenings last week in the book world. Here's a round-up of some of the responses to Fox News' "most embarrassing interview" with religious scholar Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Seems they can't wrap their heads around the fact that a Muslim penned a book about Jesus, and the worst of them have predictably reacted badly. Already expectations of skyrocketing sales for the book (and the one-star tsunami at Amazon) are high.

Commentators in that Atlantic Wire report had nothing but praise for Aslan's "superhuman" patience in the face of an interviewer apparently offended that a Muslim would write anything on the founder of Christianity and is hell-bent on discrediting the scholar and the book, based solely on the former's religion.

In spite of Aslan's credentials and that he says writing books on Jesus is also part of his job. "I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That's what I do for a living, actually."

"I don’t remember what I wrote ... and I don’t remember anything about the book itself except that I felt completely unrepentant about not recommending it. ... as far as I was concerned the only reason they didn’t go for this one was that it wasn’t good enough. 'Good' for me at that time meant tight and clever and stylistically showy. The idea that failing to see the merit of 'The Diary of a Good Neighbour' might have been a reflection of my own limitations rather than the book’s had no resonance for me at all. My mechanism of judgment was as ruthless as it was narrow."

After Robert Galbraith's unmasking, the guy who dismissed Doris Lessing's pseudonymously written novel reflects on his decision.


  • There's a library in an Orang Asli village in Port Dickson? And it seems this library, located at Kampung Orang Asli Sunggala, needs books.
  • "I write street lit because that’s the life I lived". Deborah Cardona a.k.a "Sexy" (the hell?), and a gritty, ignored genre.
  • When a blog is a brand, "going dark" isn't an option for the blogger. But sometimes a hiatus - or a complete disconnection - might be necessary.
  • A first-time author asks why is the media a) such busybodies, b) not paying her for 'promotional' pieces she wrote, and c) so obsessed with "how to write" when they should be asking "how to read".
  • With the Penguin Random House merger complete, this behemoth of a publishing company is projected to corner about a quarter of the world's book publishing sector. The Atlantic and the Guardian are voicing concerns involving a scenario where giants battle for dominance of a less diverse publishing ecosystem, leaving smaller players to scavenge among the ruins. "Go big or go extinct" seems to be the game now.
  • American publishers are pushing for the EPUB3 standard for e-books. Why?
  • From GalleyCat: how booksellers can fight the scourge of showrooming, and, from the guy who introduced The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared to the world, comes The Illiterate Who Could Count. I'm wondering, how long before we get The Comedian Who Isn't Funny or The Mountaineer Who's Afraid of Heights?
  • A Q&A with Tim Hely Hutchinson, group chief executive of Hachette UK, in conjunction with the opening of Hachette's sales office in Hing Kong. While he talks about change, the Asian market, and other things, Hachette New Zealand stops publishing new stuff.
  • So research suggests the scent of chocolate keeps people hanging around in bookstores for much longer. Will an Eau de Chocolat for bookstores promote patronage and sales?
  • How Neil Gaiman was "like sushi", which "kind of works" now, according to Neil Gaiman.
  • Deadliest Catch crab boat captain Johnathan Hillstrand pens children's books, one of which features... crabs.
  • A long infographic to help you find out what kind of reader you are.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Adventures In Translation

Sometimes, editors get to read the darnedest things.

English: I can save some time.
Malay: Saya boleh menyelamatkan masa.

"That clock is falling!" he shouted. "Don't let it break!" Diving forward, his hands reached the clock before it hit the ground.


English: I soon found out.
Malay: Kini saya sudah boleh melihat!

"The scales fell from my eyes!" Saul (later, Paul) exclaimed.

English: I thought he was going to faint.
Malay: Saya ingatkan dia akan pengsan.

"Hey, you!" he said, tapping her on the shoulder. "Act III, Scene 4. This is where you pass out."

"Oh, right," she mumbles and collapses onto the floor.

The director clutched at his face. "Cut!"

English: He threw his head back.
Malay: Dia menolak kepalanya sampai ke belakang.

Because his neck muscles had gone slack. Surprised this wasn't translated into, "Dia melontar kepalanya ke belakang."

...and that's just the tip of the iceberg. It makes the job interesting, at least.

Monday, 22 July 2013

News: Leaks, Letters, Libraries, And Lonely Planet

"Robert Galbraith" is reportedly pissed with how the name behind "his" pseudonym was leaked. Claims that the leak was not a publicity stunt followed revelations that someone in a legal firm let slip that JK Rowling was actually the author of The Cuckoo's Calling, an acclaimed crime novel with previously modest sales figures.

I think it's more because JK Rowling or her publishers were more pissed because they were robbed of the privilege of the unveiling at an appointed time. Given Rowling's reputation, it's possible that the publisher will eventually spring this on us. That being said, entrusting anybody with secrets can be risky in the age of Instagram.

Now that the cat's out of the bag, sales, predictably, went through the roof. At least Rowling can add another feather to her hat, unlike some other authors who could only enjoy posthumous fame.

Somebody writing in seattlepi.com thinks Rowling's case "is a truly illuminating example of the fundamental unfairness and absurdity that lies at the heart of the book publishing industry."

Following the Taliban's 'apology' to Malala for shooting her, writer Mohammed Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti) exploded some Taliban mangoes.

Thanks for owning up that your comrades tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Many of your well-wishers in Pakistan had been claiming the Taliban wouldn't attack a minor girl. They were of the opinion that Malala had shot herself in order to become a celebrity and get a UK visa. Women, as we know, will go to any lengths to get what they want. So thanks for saying that a 14-year-old girl was the Taliban's foe.

With that out of the way, he starts piling it on.

Like you, there are others who are still not sure whether it was "Islamically correct or wrong", or whether she deserved to be "killed or not", but then you go on to suggest that we leave it to Allah.

There are a lot of people in Pakistan, some of them not even Muslims, who, when faced with difficult choices or everyday hardships, say let's leave it to Allah. Sometimes it's the only solace for the helpless. But most people don't say leave it to Allah after shooting a kid in the face.

Read the whole thing. Please.

Meanwhile, back home, Uthaya Sankar SB pens his thoughts (in Malay) over a perceived insult to religion.

Another Wild West myth explodes:

...the idealization of [Wyatt] Earp as a good guy with a gun, an unswerving servant of law and order, is a myth. As a young man, Earp was arrested for horse theft and consorting with prostitutes. He was run out of a Texas town for trying to sell a rock painted yellow as a gold brick. He was drawn to police work not because of a devotion to the law but because, during the Gilded Age when public corruption was rampant, it was an easy source of cash. He went to court in 1896 for having refereed a fixed heavyweight championship prizefight, and as late as 1911, at age 63, he was arrested by the Los Angeles police for running a crooked card game.

Gosh darn it. Wyatt Earp. Who knew?

"'Technically,' because like ... any number of other YA books that some adults like to raise hell about, these titles promote only what readers want them to promote. Because without context of story, you can make a book about anything you want it to be about!"

As young adult books get darker and steamier, parents start worrying. Are these YA titles so terrifying, or is there an element of hypocrisy involved?

"Some grown-ups are afraid of context.

It’s clear not only in their claims about what it is YA books are promoting but also in their strong stances that YA books were never as “bad” in their day.

Of course they were.


  • Someone in Singapore has compiled the stories of 300 hawkers in the island state into a book and will also be conducting guided tours to some famous hawker centres there. The book, part of the Singapore HeritageFest 2013, is going for about RM211 and can be found here. Want to ask, "How did they manage to find 300 hawkers in Singapore?" Don't.
  • Translated Chinese novels not going out to the world as fast as foreign fiction coming into China.
  • Hey, Tash Aw is in Poskod.my. Speaking of his old backyard: "I grew up in what was then called Kampung Kerinchi. It was a slum, basically. Now it’s called Bangsar South. It’s really quite amazing." We think so too.
  • Lonely Planet is cutting its editorial staff. Though it's not dead yet, the eulogies appear to be coming in. Meanwhile, Frommers, another travel guide label, will be publishing a new set of books under a new name, after it was bought back from Google by its founder.
  • Spain's economic crisis sends crowds into libraries, which start looking like neighbourhood community centres. Wonder if this will boost the arguments in this article on libraries in the UK.
  • Are women in the UK ditching newspapers because of sexist white male newspaper owners and what the latter think are news?
  • Wanna write better? First, be a better reader. These techniques are said to help.
  • What heppened when a library banned a book - with the author's permission - on Banned Book Week.
  • Found guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices with a bunch of publishers, Apple, predictably, appeals against the verdict.

And talk about sudden hedgehogs: Check out the cover and description of this (erotic?) werehedgehog romance e-book.

Now there's a terrifying title I wouldn't let young adults read - lest they start flooding Facebook with related memes. But I wonder if it explores an actual hedgehog-related condition?

Monday, 15 July 2013

News: Noms De Plume, Stalkers, Critics, And Cynics

Seems last week's been a week for revealing secrets. Sales of mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling surged by 150,000 per cent after news emerged that the author, Robert Galbraith, was actually JK Rowling.

Not sure if this is good news for Rowling, seeing is that:

Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience ... It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.

While Scott Pack unpacks the news, Kate Mills of Orion Publishing admits she and perhaps several other publishers passed on Galbraith/Rowling's mystery novel.

The Telegraph seems to be chortling at the editors' inability to spot the book as a winner - and figure out that Rowling was the actual author. Like editors are supposed to be clairvoyant and all that.

Meanwhile, online persona Ruth Bourdain seems to have outed himself due to the pressure in maintaining the charade. The mastermind behind the popular Ruth Reichl/Anythony Bourdain mashup was "mild-mannered" freelance writer and Food Section blogger Josh Friedland.

Both Rowling and Friedland intend to continue writing under their noms de plume. But will it be the same, now that the illusions have been shattered? And will there be pressure to perform now?

Sandra Botham, some lady in the UK, was convicted for tossing ink at crime writer Val McDermid over a perceived insult where she'd assumed that a "Michelin Man-like" character called Sandra in McDermid's that book she read in 1985 was herself.

"This is a work of pure fiction. All resemblances to real characters, living or dead, events and locations are purely coincidental." Was this disclaimer missing from the book or did Botham have a bad day over two decades long?

And here are some more incidents of author stalking "that could be out of a Stephen King novel" for further reading. Also: a peek into the "murky world" of literary libel.


  • Goodreads asks its members what made them put down a book. Here are the results, in infographic form. Few surprises in the findings.
  • Mob mag: Japan's largest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, published a magazine.
  • "Being cynical isn't necessarily a bad thing ... It's at the heart of great satire and, perhaps more importantly, leads us to question what is wrong with the world – and strive to make it better." Julian Baggini, in the Guardian, on why cynicism still matters.
  • Guilty! Apple said to have 'led a conspiracy' to fix e-book prices with several big-name publishers. Here's how Apple apparently did it. While some may celebrate the court decision (hooray for consumers!), someone over at Forbes thinks it might lead to lower-quality e-books - and a dominant Amazon that can set its own rules and prices in the absence of any major competition.
  • A Malaysian High Court grants stay application by ZI Publications over a raid and confiscation of Irshad Manji's book by religious authorities on its premises. If the JAWI raid on Borders was ruled illegal because the book wasn't yet banned by the Home Ministry, the same might be said of the raid on ZI.
  • "Beans for the kids", "a glass of wine", and "little carps" are not what you think they are. Hint: they're all euphemisms for "duit kopi".
  • Writing heals, it seems.
  • "A five-star restaurant is like pornography: You'll know it when you see it, and it will likely bring you great pleasure." If this is how roving restaurant critic Hanna Raskin intends to help Yelp, good luck to everybody.
  • Why do we read about bad deeds? A professor introduces Freud's "idea of sublimation" and suggests that "...authors write -- and, for that matter, readers read -- about acts of violence, cruelty, dishonesty, or aggression precisely so that they don't actually commit them in real life." Imagine that, even as some conservatives argue that reading about bad deeds encourages them.
  • Should you boycott an author's works in protest of his personal views? HuffPost's senior books editor says it's pointless. Where Orson Scott Card is concerned, apparently yes.
  • Clive James's acerbic review of Dan Brown's Inferno. Brown's an esay target for this kind of critique, and it's something I'd do if I had the patience, knowledge and an additional 30 years' experience in writing.
  • As competition wanes, Amazon cuts back on discounts.
  • The New York Times is shutting down its food blog, Diner's Journal. Is this the beginning - or the middle - of the end of blogs?

By the way, MPH's digital publishing division has a Facebook page up. IT CAN HAZ LIKES? THNX. I've been allowed to post stuff on the page, though I don't see myself contributing often because of my anti-social tendencies.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

MPH Quill, Issue 38, July to September 2013

...features the girls of indie ice cream brand The Last Polka.

From what I heard, the senior editors had a field day with the interview, photoshoot, and presumably lunch at The Bee, Jaya One. The girls were dolled up by the Amber Chia Academy.

In this issue:

  • Profile of three women entrepreneurs: Chantelle Chuah (JesseChantelle Chocolatier), Yoshini Jaya Manogaran (Urban OPI Nail Salon) and Nicole Rodrigues (Mountain Juice).
  • Also profiled are three blogshops: thecalaman.com, trendyconfessions.com, and The Pink Sort (facebook.com/thepinksort).
  • A chat with Philippe Charriol, founder of the luxury brand Charriol, and a feature on actress and poet Hélène Cardona.
  • Kid Chan talks about his past and his book, and Ellen Whyte talks about Angkor Wat.
  • Articles on how to be happy, a quiz to find out what kind of a spender you are, and a (rather oversimplistic) way to tell if your man is a prince or a player.

And more, coming soon to bookstores and news stands.

Monday, 8 July 2013

News: Textbooks, Excerpts, And A Ghostwriter's Lament

  • "Textbook sales, for both higher education and K-12, will reach an estimated $13.7 billion in the U.S. this year, according to Outsell, a research firm. The overall market is expected to increase over the next few years as the student population is growing." Is the industry that Jobs said was "ripe for digital destruction" heading down that path?
  • How a Hong Kong book fair is helping the territory's writers penetrate the mainland market. Still ... guess nine to 11 per cent in royalties is quite common in conventional publishing.
  • "In the course of five years and approximately 600,000 words, I'd become so good at mimicking the voice of another author that I'd lost my own, and I'd failed to nurture my own career, not to mention well-being, as carefully as I had the lives of the characters that had never belonged to me." A ghostwriter wakes up to the espresso.
  • After laying off its in-house shutterbugs, Chicago Sun-Times drops its regular book coverage.
  • Because they're people, too: a new book on the victims of the Long Island Serial Killer. Also from Salon: an excerpt from a book on the apparent militarisation of the US police force.
  • Lest we forget: everything we need to know about the e-book price war.
  • Two ways to not approach a publisher: online stalking and when queueing up for the dunny. S'not on, mate.
  • Hooray for best-selling author Amish Tripathi, whose Immortals of Meluha has publishers lining up for his next potential blockbuster.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Betty, the Vampire Slayer

Forget the pom-poms and wooden stakes - Elizabeth I of England blasts bloodsuckers to kingdom come with raw magic in this retelling of her history

first published in The Malay Mail Online, 03 July 2013

As queen, Elizabeth Tudor, also known as Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603), was noted for slaying some notable things. Mary, Queen of Scots. The Spanish Armada. But what if she also slew vampires?

That's the premise behind The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer. The novel's marketing set-up touts it as the start of a "sumptuous new series" based on the Virgin Queen's "never-before-seen" diaries, "revealed to the world" by Lucy Weston, the minor vampire character in many Dracula films and the "owner" of the seemingly defunct www.lucywestonvampire.com. "Weston" is also credited as the novel's author, but I have no idea who is/are behind "her."

The novel begins days before Elizabeth's coronation, court official William Cecil and polymath Dr John Dee lead the future queen to her mother's gravesite where she begins to glow, smells roses and hears her mother's voice.

It turns out to be more than just pre-coronation jitters. Liz (let's call her "Liz"; "Betty" is still too long) is revealed to be a slayer of vampires and descendant of Druid priestess Morgraine (a.k.a. Morgan le Fey), whose powers have awakened in her.

Cecil and Dee confess to being members of a circle entrusted with this secret and her protection. She is less than pleased with the revelation, but eventually embraces it for the sake of her kingdom.

The vampires are led by Mordred, the illegitimate son of the legendary King Arthur and, therefore, a legit claimant to the English throne. He joined the creatures to save England a thousand years earlier. Back then, he courted Morgraine and offered her the same deal, but was rebuffed. Now, he's eyeing Liz.

On the night she is crowned, Mordred warns Liz of the dangers she and her kingdom faced from rival countries and the Pope and offers her power and protection from those dangers – if she becomes his vampire queen. He's told to sod off.

However, Liz finds him charming, despite what he is, but she also has those rival kingdoms and court intrigues to deal with. There's also the ironically vampiric nature of her gift which, among other things, allows her to blast vampires to smithereens with energy bolts; every bloodsucker she kills feeds her powers and urge to kill more of them.

Besides Cecil and Dee, other real-life figures here include Liz's governess, Kat Ashley; Francis Walsingham, who would become the royal spymaster; and Robert Dudley, the queen's long-time companion and reputed lover.

Written in a way that brings to mind Shakespeare, this two-narrator work barely registers as Harlequin horror. Though convincing from a historical viewpoint, the novel stumbles when it came to the romance/horror bit.

Scenes with Liz and Mordred are more like a dance, not tussle, of emotions, even as the two are torn between duty and their mutual attraction to each other. The plot feels loose and almost every twist can be predicted. Except, perhaps, how it ends.

And Mordred, that powerful, time-warping and space-bending immortal being of the night, is so addled by his feelings for the fledgling queen, judging from his side of the story.

To the chagrin of Lady Blanche, the token jealous other woman and his second-in-command, he still hopes that Liz will join him, even as she starts slaying his kin.

I say it's because of her rank and powers. Slayer Liz comes off as a wilful royal brat, steeped in the belief that her right to lord over her subjects is divinely ordained; any talk of altruism, charity and justice seems obligated by faith and duty.

Nor does she believe the "radical" idea that all men are equal: "Truly, if that addled notion ever becomes common currency, the world will be undone." She's so made for Mordred.

The romantic "tension" between Liz and Rob Dudley feels just as obligatory. The blow-hot/blow-cold stuff and love scenes are all by the numbers. Rob's a pitiful, poor rival of Mordred. Historically, Rob never got to marry Liz, partly due to the queen's vaguely feminist tendencies. He must feel even more inadequate, now that his royal lady love can go pew pew pew like the Death Star.

The ending and the asides by Mordred in the first part of the "secret diaries" seem to hint at a future continuation of and a dark turn in Elizabeth Tudor's so-called secret history as a vampire-killing machine.

But would such a series still be viable, now that the Twilight saga on the big screen has ended and, perhaps, driven the last nail into the coffin of a tired, well-milked genre?

This review is based on an advanced reading copy.

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer
Lucy Weston
Gallery Books (2011)
304 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9033-3

Monday, 1 July 2013

News: Serious Stuff, Borders, Coffee, And A Keynote Speech

  • "As a native of Burma or Myanmar, the title 'Freedom and Literature' seemed surreal to us in the recent past. However, for me, literature itself, either creating or reading it, always relates to freedom." Burmese writer Dr Ma Thida's closing keynote speech for the Edinburgh World Writers' Conference at #Word: Cooler Lumpur Festival. On that note, here's some coverage of the event.
  • JAWI's raid on Borders over Irshad Manji's Allah, Liberty and Love was is still unconstitutional and illegal, and the High Court has asked that the charges against store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz be dropped. Doesn't look like JAWI can appeal the decision, but I don't expect this to end with a whimper.
  • "It's not that we should include things that are 'frivolous,' necessarily, but we should include things with male and female bents, and even things that are not serious in subject, but serious in terms of the work they entail—the seriousness between the writer and his or her subject, and the reader and the page." Jen Doll's thoughts on gender, publications, and 'serious journalism' in The Hairpin.
  • He is legend: RIP Richard Matheson.
  • Barnes & Noble to stop making its own colour e-readers.
  • Over at The Economist, some thoughts about Alice Munro's retirement. But do writers ever retire?
  • Coffee cramps creativity? Not really. "Idleness and willfully unrealized potential, though, are," says James Hamblin in The Atlantic. In this article (looks like an ad, doesn't it?), ambient noises in a coffeeshop can boost creativity.
  • Potong stim: Ballantine Books decides to cancel Paula Deen's book, Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Recipes, All Lightened Up, despite pre-orders taking it to number one on Amazon. The support for Deen is as pointless as the circus surrounding her use of the 'N-word'; it's not the worst thing she's done. But I guess the publishers didn't want to risk having the books gather dust due to all that negative publicity.
  • Despite changes in demographics, children's books in the US "stay stubbornly white".
  • Chef Jamie Oliver, author of numerous cookbooks and articles, manages to finish a whole book: Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire. Quite a feat, since he's dyslexic. But shouldn't he have read the first Hunger Games novel first? Prob'ly too much t'ask o' him. But way to go, chef.

    Meanwhile, here's a possible key to reading more: "Carry a book with you at all times. Every time you get a second, crack it open. Don’t install games on your phone – that’s time you could be reading. When you’re eating, read. When you’re on the train, in the waiting room, at the office – read."
  • If someone reviewed beer a la Gertrude Stein, will he be dubbed a 'beer stein'? I know, I know, lawak tempang. That being said:

    Left-Hand Black Jack Porter (6.80% ABV): Spiritous in spirit, tea like in tea. All this and not extraordinary in heft, hefted. A little sweetness is so ordinary. Very likely there is no cream that is present, yet inside the milk is a shade. Life and limb for an age aged for darkness. Herbaceous yet what is an herb to the hereby untenable mouth.